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Bottling the Berkshires

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Berkshire Mountain Distillers founder, owner and operator Chris Weld stands behind a selection of craft spirits available in the distillery’s retail shop in Sheffield, Mass. Photo: Casey Albert

Chris Weld’s first attempt at distilling was a flop, cut short when his mother discovered that the then-eighth-grader’s plans to build his own still would put him in violation of federal law. Undeterred by this early setback, Weld remained fascinated by the art and science behind the distilling process, soaking up knowledge through site visits, seminars and an apprenticeship with a distiller in Kentucky.

Berkshire Mountain Distillers opened its doors in 2007 with Weld at the helm as founder, owner and chief operator. For seven years, the company operated out of a renovated barn on the side of East Mountain in Great Barrington, Mass., on the grounds of the historic Soda Springs Farm. The area was once a popular retreat for 19th-century city dwellers, drawn in by claims that the mountain spring water had curative properties.

Weld, too, was attracted to the region’s wealth of natural resources. The fertile soil and active farming community meant many key ingredients were available just outside the barn door. Currently, the company sources its primary grain, corn, from Riverhill Farm in Great Barrington, and its secondary grains — wheat, rye and barley — from Stonehouse Farm in Hudson, N.Y. Since moving in 2014 to a larger, more accessible location at 356 South Main St., Sheffield, Mass., the distillery has installed three greenhouses and multiple gardens to grow botanicals for its gin. The distillery also grows its own herbs, which it offers to area bars and restaurants for craft cocktails and seasonally-inspired menus.

BMD in the limelight

Despite, or perhaps because of, its laser-focus on local production, BMD has made a name for itself on the national scale. BMD products have had their praises sung by the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Maxim, GQ, Country Living and marthastewart.com, and numerous industry publications. The distillery’s proudest achievement came courtesy of the New York Times, which named BMD’s Greylock Gin the number one craft gin in the country.

Most recently, BMD has sparked interest with its Craft Brewers Whiskey Project, now in its sixth year. Intended to merge the craft beer and whiskey scenes together to create a one of a kind spirit, the project involves distilling brews from a select group of brewers — including Sam Adams, Harpoon, Brewery Ommegang, Two Roads, Long Trail and others — into unique whiskey blends.

Moving forward

BMD currently employs eight full-time staff members and distributes 10 different spirits to bars, restaurants and retail outlets across 18 states. In addition, the distillery’s Sheffield location offers an expanded selection of up to 25 different labels, including varieties of their Cask Bourbons (finished in recently-emptied craft beer barrels) and batches of their seasonal Ethereal Gin, which varies in flavor from year to year. The newest addition to the BMD lineup is the Smoke and Peat Bourbon Whiskey, a variation on their popular Berkshire Bourbon that has been second aged in barrels sourced from the Islay region of Scotland. The heavily peated whiskey barrel adds earthiness and smoke tones to the bourbon. In 2016, the company secured a farmer distilleries pouring permit and is now open year-round for tours, tastings and sales.

To learn more about Berkshire Mountain Distillers, schedule a tour or purchase BMD products, visit berkshiremountaindistillers.com.

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